Pensioner avoids jail after accidentally killing best friend while parking

3 December 2019, 13:38 | Updated: 3 December 2019, 17:49

A pensioner who eventually admitted causing the death of her lifelong friend in a "tragic" parking accident has escaped a jail sentence.

Patricia Tulip, 82, has been handed a community order following the death of 80-year-old Joyce Nainby outside her home in Gosforth, Newcastle in September 2018.

The friends - who went to school together about 70 years ago - had been returning from a school reunion.

A court heard that when the defendant parked her car, it began to roll backwards after she failed to apply the handbrake.

When she realised her error she quickly got back inside the vehicle - which she had also left in reverse rather than in neutral - but instead of braking, Tulip accidentally accelerated towards the grandmother of six, who was hit by the open side door.

She was taken to hospital but died from her injuries 10 days later.

Patricia was said to have felt a "great deal of remorse" for what happened - and after initially pleading not guilty, she admitted causing death by careless driving - and was told she would have to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work.

Sentencing her at Newcastle Crown Court, a judge said: "As a result of a series of careless errors by you, your car very sadly became the implement responsible for your old and great friend's tragic death.

"Although she was 80, she was fit and she was active, and she had every reason to expect many more years with her family."

Defending, Shaun Routledge said Tulip - who wiped away tears during the hearing - had written a letter of condolence to her friend's family.

He told the court: "I have not come across, in over 30 years, a set of facts or circumstances that are similar to these."

Tulip - described by witnesses as a trusted and competent motorist with many years of experience - was banned from driving for three years - but the court heard she gave up her licence immediately after the accident.

The victim's husband of 64 years, Peter Nainby - who was ill with both Parkinson's disease and cancer at the time of the crash - died in July without his wife by his side.

In a statement read out in court, one of their three children, Geoffrey, said his mother's death had changed their family's lives forever.

He said: "she was not ready to go" - adding: "Their final years could have been so different. Mum could - and should -have been here to look after Dad in his final months.

"Like so many others, we felt confident that terrible things only happen to other people, but then this happened to us."

The statement continued: "As a friend of our mum's, we didn't seek punishment for Mrs Tulip, all we ever wanted was an acceptance of responsibility.

"Maybe naively, we expected her to 'do the right thing' from the start but, as that was not the case, we had no option other than to support a prosecution through the courts."

Geoffrey said that as a result of the delay between his mother's death and sentencing of Tulip, his father had not been able to get closure before his death.